Comp Plan on the Rocket Docket
Some Say It’s Moving Too Fast
On schedule to meet a February 1, 2017, deadline, the final four elements of the Comprehensive Plan update arrived at Planning & Zoning on the evening of Tuesday, November 8. The meeting was, relatively speaking, lightly attended, but a few concerned citizens tore themselves away from the unfolding drama of the national election to plead special cases.
The four Comp Plan elements P&Z approved to be sent to the City Commission were Capital Improvement, Housing, Transportation and Future Land Use. Predictably, the Future Land Use element drew the most attention.
Can Anyone Keep Up?
There has been considerable commentary about the speed with which the Comp Plan revision process is taking place, especially as regards the Land Use element. Pat MacDonald pointed out that there have been 22 meetings between July and October, with nearly half the meetings taking place in October. The all-important Land Use element of the Comp Plan has been whittled from 85 pages down to 31 pages. Few are able to comprehend what, if anything, was lost in those 54 pages. And very few are able to understand or keep track of all the changes to the document as a whole.
“Ambitious, Artificial Deadline”
Private citizens are not the only ones objecting to the pace at which the Comp Plan revision has been conducted. Referring to the work session Pat MacDonald mentioned in the video above, P&Z board member Peter Gottfried wrote October 18 to the mayor and commissioners, “We were just sent the latest proposed changes to the Future Land Use Element to the Comprehensive Plan. This is a major piece of legislation that needs to be thoroughly reviewed by members of the Planning and Zoning Board as well as the citizens of Winter Park prior to our workshop this afternoon. Unfortunately, time does not allow for a review that I think is crucial.”
Transportation Element Rolls in Minutes Before Meeting
“I had the same issue with our review of the Transportation element at a workshop a few weeks ago where we were given the proposed change matrix minutes before our meeting. This, my colleagues, is no way to run a railroad or a City. There is absolutely no way I, as your representative on the Planning and Zoning Board, can provide proper review and insight to this document with this ambitious, artificial, deadline.
Is Breakneck Speed Politically Motivated?
“Please put aside opinions that we need to rush this in order to avoid political implications in the upcoming city election,” continued Gottfried. “The better way to approach this is to slow down in order to give thoughtful and careful evaluation of a document that will set the tone for the development of Winter Park for years to come.”
“Can I have your support to consider changing the implementation schedule so that we have the appropriate amount of time to consider more thoughtfully this comprehensive document.”
Last-Minute Changes Requested
Toward the end of the meeting, attorney Becky Wilson requested changes to the land use map that would benefit one of her clients, and developer Dan Bellows requested changes that would benefit him. Both were requesting expanding the Central Business District (CBD), which would have the effect of increasing density but preserving the pedestrian orientation of development in the Hannibal Square district. And, once again, the issue of haste reared its head.
Why Wait Until the Last Minute?
Why, questioned Peter Gottfried, did Wilson and Bellows wait until these elements were scheduled for adoption to bring their requests for changes? Wilson’s response, that she believed this was the meeting where her requests were meant to be heard, indicates that even an attorney as familiar with the inner workings of City Hall as Wilson is did not fully understand how fast a track this train is on.
P&Z members postponed their decision for six months to provide opportunity to study the effects of the proposed changes.